The Filmmakers

Why 'Atanarjuat' is widely considered one of the best — and most important — Canadian films

On this weekend's episode of The Filmmakers, we look at the indelible mark so quickly left by the 2002 film — the first ever made in the Inuktitut language.

Looking at the indelible mark so quickly left by the 2002 film, the first ever made in the Inuktitut language

imagineNATIVE Film & Media Festival Executive Director Jason Ryle, filmmaker Nyla Innuksuk and filmmaker and songwriter Elisapie Isaac talk about "Atanarjuat." 6:40

The first feature film made entirely in the Inuktitut language, Zacharias Kunuk's Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner is widely considered a movie masterpiece. It remains the only Canadian film to win the Camera d'Or for best first feature at the Cannes Film Festival and swept the Genie Awards in 2002, including a win for best film. In 2015, a TIFF poll of filmmakers and critics named it the best Canadian film of all time. And this weekend on The Filmmakers, we're discussing — among other things — why it's so revered. 

"It really left such an indelible impact not just on Inuit filmmaking, not just Indigenous filmmaking but also Canadian filmmaking," imagineNATIVE Film & Media Festival executive director Jason Ryle says in the above video, part of a panel featured on The Filmmakers that also included filmmaker Nyla Innuksuk and filmmaker and songwriter Elisapie Isaac.

"For once we are allowed to imagine all sorts of things about our culture. It was a spiritual thing, this movie." - Elisapie Isaac, filmmaker and songwriter

The film retells the Inuit legend of Atanarjuat, a story passed down through over 500 years of oral tradition. Shot on location in Nunavut, Kunuk wanted the film to show how Inuit communities have thrived in the Arctic for thousands of years.

Kunuk himself will talk more about that in his interview on this weekend's episode — but first see what Innuksuk, Isaac and Ryle have to say to The Filmmakers host Johanna Schneller. 

Watch The Filmmakers this Saturday at 8:30 p.m. (9 NT) on CBC Television, or stream it at cbc.ca/watch. After the episode, stick around to see this week's feature presentation, Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner).​